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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

He was the first to light a candle

25 November, 2008 - 00:00

Hundreds of thousands of candles lit last Saturday on squares and in windows all over the country were a memorial tribute to the millions who died during the terrible 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine, as well as to him, James Mace, who was the first to light a candle.

The Presidential Secretariat put the James Mace memorial soiree on the list of social occasions being held as part of the commemorative week in Ukraine under the slogan “Ukraine Remembers. The World Recognizes.” This is a unique gesture of support to The Day‘s initiative and Mace’s relatives and friends.

On the evening of November 20, people to whom James Mace was especially dear gathered together in the Ukrainian House. Among those who came to honor his memory were his personal acquaintances and people who knew him from his books and The Day‘s pages. Some walked a couple of blocks to get there, while other travelled thousands of kilometers. James gathered these people again, and every time there are more of them.

The James Mace memorial soiree consisted of two important parts. The first one was the launching of a new book from The Day‘s Library series-James Mace: Your Dead Chose Me, which comprises his hitherto unpublished works on not only the Holodomor itself but also the causes and consequences of the extermination policy. The second part featured the crew of the movie director Natalia Sushcheva who has made the film James Mace’s Candle. This picture is about the caliber of one individual. It is based on sincere reminiscences of those who knew and worked with James. After a 40-minute show, the viewers had tears in their eyes as they were leaving the room.

This year the famine victims were honored in a special way. One can clearly see that the organizers of the memorial events did this with all of their heart. The posters and drawings on the walls of the Ukrainian House vividly display human contribution to the nationwide memory of the 20th-century catastrophe. The stalls present books of memory from every oblast in Ukraine; there were prepared by hundreds of local researchers. All this is an adequate response to those who accuse the president of “carrying things too far” in this matter.

Hanging among the posters is a small piece of embroidery made by a 10th-grader; it shows grain ears and a guelder-rose. This picture symbolizes that, by the sheer power of his spirit, James managed to find a way to human hearts, even though not to all of them. One more important moment: a woman came up to James’ portrait, put down a slice of bread, and bowed to him. She thanked him and showed that she was in pain.


Volodymyr PANCHENKO, Doctor of Philology, professor, the Kyiv Mohyla Academy:

“James Mace is a special figure in Ukrainian history. An individual, who was far from Ukraine both geographically and ethnically, suddenly took its past and future close to his heart. Reading many of his articles, I would catch myself thinking that he understood us better than many other people who reside in this country. He displayed an absolute understanding of Ukrainian mentality and history. He was a sober analyst and realist rather than a sentimentalist or a romantic. He would write about our permanent bribery, the triumph of bureaucrats, and the habit of humiliating the ordinary man. But, at the same time, James loved Ukraine very much, and his critical words about this country went side by side with no less biting criticism of his native United States. Even as Staff Director of the US Commission on the Ukraine Famine, he spoke about things that were fairly unpleasant and bitter to the American consciousness-in particular, that the US remained ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ in the 1930s because in 1933 the US extended diplomatic recognition to the USSR. At the same time, it should be added that he said the bitter words of truth about the US and Ukraine out of love for both of his fatherlands. It seems to me that James Mace belonged to the rare category of people who have a quixotic nature.

“He was the first to speak about Ukraine as a post-genocidal society. We will need to give this thesis more thought because it reveals the unvarnished truth about us, the contemporaries.

“From 1983 on, when Mace began researching into the Ukrainian Holodomor, he had a lot of opponents, both in the West (former Sovietologists) and in Ukraine (victims of communism). For example, five years ago, when Mace was taking part in Anna Bezulyk’s TV program ‘My Opinion,’ communist Valerii Mishura, one of the opponents to the Holodomor who was also present in the studio, shouted at him, ‘Yankee, go home!’ Incidentally, I know that some of Mishura’s family members also starved to death. My question is: How zombified should a person be to yell this, even though he knows about victims in his own family? And, in general, how many millions of victims did Ukraine need to have to keep the communists away from parliament?

This means we have things to reconsider not only in our history but also in our consciousness.”

Yevhen SVERSTIUK, human rights champion, public figure:

“James Mace was the first swallow in Ukraine to speak of genocide.

“One could freely speak of famine in 1991. But the personality of the speaker made a world of difference. We needed Mace’s voice, i.e., the voice of an honest academic who does not pursue his own agenda but presents facts and arguments and invites us to make conclusions.

“I was not prepared to accept the word ‘genocide’ at the time. You know that it was not used even at the Nuremberg trial. The word ‘Holocaust’ was adopted later, in 1948. So we did not have this concept. James was one of the first to speak of this. I also drew up a report on profaning the sacred gift of life, i.e., on the same Holodomor, but from a religious viewpoint. I said then, on the crest of enthusiasm, that we needed to bestow the title of honorary citizen of Ukraine on James Mace and Robert Conquest. These people raised our great national problem of the 20th century and blazed a trail to the honest intellectual inquiry for the Western academic world.

“Regarding his his personal qualities, let me tell you one thing. When we were flying to Ottawa for a conference, I lost my suitcase with clothes. How could I get up on the rostrum? Out of those who flew with me, James appeared to be closest to me, and I asked him for a necktie and a shirt. He looked very human in some way. I think he took up such an ungrateful subject because of his humanness. Nobody wanted to quarrel with Russia — then and now. Nobody wanted to come into conflict with the Slavic departments of US universities — then and, I think, now. So the young US academic, who chose to study this delicate problem, was putting his career at stake. Obviously, he was not risking as much as Valerii Marchenko was, who told the investigator during interrogations that the CPSU was to blame for the famine. Yet Mace was really risking his career. There are journalists here, so I must say this is the way it was and will always be. Revealing the truth will never draw applause. The truth is always bitter, and it can only be achieved with an honest word, a profound persuasion, and love for people.”

Volodymyr BOIKO, historian, Chernihiv:

“I teach at a technological university. I once delivered a lecture to a hundred 17-to-18-year-old first-year students and asked if they knew who James Mace was. None of the students could answer in the affirmative. Yes, they did a pro forma study of the Holodomor topic in school but remained unaware of his name. This year I told them that the TRK channel would show a film on Mace. A few people watched it — of course, not as many as I would have liked. Then one student shared his impressions: ‘It’s odd. I think we were told all these facts in school, but they looked different.’ Another one said he was surprised by James’ position because James tried to prove things nobody wanted to hear and this even cut his career short. The young generation is firmly convinced that money rules supreme in this life. When I said ‘But no one bought James’, I heard a stunning response: ‘He was honest.’ So it is so simple: just be honest to yourself and others and say what you think. But, for some reason, a person like this is not a role model for younger generations. You can’t reap a benefit from being honest.”

Morgan WILLIAMS, president, US-Ukraine Business Council:

“I met James in 1997, when I moved to Kyiv. For me, he was always a person to turn to and have an interesting conversation with. When we saw each other again after his illness in 2003, we began to discuss the way artists highlighted the Holodomor problem in their works and how art can help tell the world the truth about the Holodomor. The best way is through the works of Ukrainian painters. This was the starting moment for the art collection ‘The Holodomor through the Eyes of Ukrainian artists.’

“These days I have two strong feelings: inexpressible sorrow over what happened to Ukrainian peasants and inexpressible resentment at the political regime and political leaders who caused the deaths of millions of people. The lives of those who survived were ruined, too. The Holodomor created a boundless hollow space not only in rural areas but also in human consciousness. After this we should be extremely cautious and deny politicians access to unlimited power. Monuments to Holomor victims and artists’ pictures must remind us of this.”

Marta KOLOMIETS, program manager, Ukraine-US Foundation, journalist:

“I met James Mace when I was a young journalist in the US. It was extremely important for us that a person without Ukrainian roots tackled the Holodomor problem. Since then I have had the deepest respect for him. This week is full of sorrow. But what caused even more sadness is the fact that James is no longer with us.”

Danylo YANEVSKY, TV host, journalist:

“I met James in the early 1990s, when he had just arrived in Ukraine. We talked a lot: about life, Ukraine, and the US. It was not until a few years later that I learned that it was the James Mace we know today. But even then you could see the true caliber of his personality.

“It is psychologically difficult for a nation to live on the graves of its ancestors. These days I am just sick, as are most of my acquaintances, I think. The question is not whether or not to mark the Holodomor’s anniversary, but what lessons the nation will draw from this. Here and today we must do our best to keep this from happening to anyone.”

Hanna SOLONYCHNA, singer, performer of the “Mother’s Wailing” during the memorial events on St. Michael Square:

“Every year I feel inexpressible sorrow in these days. You do not have to have been born in those terrible times and lived through it all. You can just imagine this. No individual with a living soul and imagination will ever be able to recall the Holodomor indifferently after this.

“Big screens on St. Michael Square are always showing documentary and archival evidence and eyewitness accounts. This is really impressing. Who has seen this cannot but believe this was a premeditated massacre. If anybody still does not believe it, let them watch the films to be shown this weekend.

“Unfortunately, I did not know James Mace in person. But he became a true Ukrainian for me after all that I have heard and seen about him, after the film The Candle of James Mace. This is a person who was concerned about our people even more than many of those who were born here.”

Natalia SUSHCHEVA, director of the documentary film The Candle of James Mace:

“Some things that occurred as the film was being shot were not at all accidental. Shortly before the shooting, I was given the book 1933 Memorial. I cried for two days. Of course, I could put this book aside, but it was clear to me that I had to know the truth despite the pain that I felt. People are not ostriches, and nobody will manage to hide their head in the sand. Whoever does not want to know this today will do so tomorrow.

“What is the Holodomor for me? It cost us too dearly. The Holodomor tragedy is not confined to the number of the dead alone. We are feeling fear at the genetic level and becoming pliable. It will perhaps take us more than one decade to develop a protective shell. We must know for sure that if we allow ourselves to be manipulated, we will be facing tragedies again and again. We must do, above all, the things that are beneficial and suitable for us.

“When I was about to begin the shooting, I had just a few photos of James. Natalia Dziubenko-Mace felt this, naturally. She would patiently answer all my questions, correct my mistakes, and share her knowledge of the Holodomor. Then she gave me an enormous gift, Day and Eternity of James Mace, a book from The Day‘s Library series on which I relied from then on. She also gave me his friends’ addresses and said that Viktor Yushchenko had set aside all his business in Paris and came back for the funeral. I thought there was something behind this and decided to see the president by all means.

“Some top officials and very busy people put the things that had to take care of aside for the sake of James. Dziubenko-Mace said that Yevhen Sverstiuk had sat by James’ bedside to the last moment, speaking to him and trying to encourage him, while holding his hand all the while. She told similar stories about everyone. People were doing very much for James, and he deserved it.

“The Holodomor is a sacred subject for the people who participate in our film, and this is not something to be discussed.

“I’d like to emphasize again that I benefited very much from the book Day and Eternity of James Mace, owing to which I tried to look at what is going in Ukraine through Jim’s eyes. Larysa Ivshyna is right: it is the best example of free political writing. There are things in the book that left an indelible imprint on my mind and soul.

“The film is already making headway. I am worried about it, as if it were a small child. A young and very beautiful girl came up to me at the memorial soiree and asked when she could buy this film in a street kiosk. I looked at her and thought, ‘This is a true Ukrainian girl.’ Another woman took hold of my hand and said that she had been crying throughout the film show. These are two absolutely different feelings, for which I am grateful to people.

“Jim did indeed a lot for me. He acquired new friends — my crew. Our relatives and we feel deeply grateful to him. I would like to believe that this feeling will soon embrace entire Ukraine, and people will begin to see the true caliber of this personality.”

Yevhenia DALLAS (USA), eyewitness of the 1932-1933 famine, whose testimony was included in the three-volume Oral History edited by James Mace:

“My parents were deported to Siberia, where they eventually died. I come from Mykolayiv region, where the famine began earlier than in Central Ukraine. My sister’s husband was advised to run away from there. This is why we came to Kyiv. Some time later, the famine reached this place, too. My sister died, and I roamed through Kyiv streets, begging for bread. I will never forget a woman who gave me a slice of bread. I have memorized her face forever. I still associate her with an angel. And, to tell the truth, we, children would steal in order to survive. Children would steal food. Adults would steal children... to make soup out of them. Then they would go mad. I was lucky enough not to get into that soup.

“I come from the US to Ukraine every year for these commemorative days. America gave me peace of mind, but I can’t help coming here, as I couldn’t fail to come to the James Mace memorial soiree. He was one of the first to record my account of the Holodomor. When he asked me questions, he advised me to speak out and weep out all the pain. He urged me to write a book of memoirs, One Woman, Five Lives, which was also published in the Ukrainian translation as Ne vmyraye dusha nasha. Eternal glory and thanks to him.”

Valentyna BERDNYK-SOKORYNSKA, painter:

“In my view, by telling the world about the Holodomor tragedy, James Mace began to restore the continuity of Ukrainian generations, which had been broken times and times again, especially in the 20th century, due to its historical cataclysms. We grew up in the period of ruin, when fear was an integral part of our inner self, and were incapable of doing that. It was apparently his initiative to pray for the dead and do services for the repose of their souls. This is a practice in the entire civilized world, when descendants remember their ancestors and are not afraid of this memory.”

Onysia MALYK, pensioner:

“I regard this memorial week as a Week of Passions. I am reflecting on it and praying. I know about James Mace from The Day and its library series. For me, he is the embodiment of the biblical truth: take upon yourself each other’s burdens and carry them.

“I come from Ternopil region, an area that did not suffer from the famine. My grandmother told me that villages gathered food and through the leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church sent it to the banks of the Zbruch, which divided Ukraine into two parts. But those on the other bank, in Greater Ukraine, rejected this aid. This shows that we can be sympathetic and support one another in the time of ordeal. But there also is a different fact: when urban residents in Central and Eastern Ukraine were eating bread and butter, peasants were starving to death at the same time. This is food for thought. Actually, James put together — in a talented, truthful and, what is more, loving way — and presented to Ukrainians a body of knowledge of themselves: about those who lived long ago, his contemporaries, and generations to come.”

Hanna YAKYMENKO, pensioner:

“Although my impression of James Mace comes from The Day‘s books, I feel as if he were a blood relative of mine. Apparently, this can be explained by the fact that he loved Ukrainians. And, in the long run, he became one of us.

“The Day‘s editor in chief Larysa Ivshyna was right in saying that we ought to speak about James as a living person. This is obvious. This happens when a very dear person departs this life. And then, contrary to any logic, this person’s clothes are still kept in the wardrobe and his personal belongings — in the house. And even his smell is there. It seems he will be back shortly. Although this person is not visually present, he still remains in reminiscences, thoughts, and our memory.”

By Olha RESHETYLOVA, Nadia TYSIACHNA, and Ivan KAPSAMUN. Photos by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day